Sunday, January 10, 2010

Let It Snow

The picture on the left shows a park in Dublin that I love. That patch of outlined white snow in the middle is a lake that has frozen over. Further up, there were some people playing on the ice, but you can't see them in this picture. Cold weather this dramatic (and pretty) is very rare in Ireland. We're usually rainy and temperate - especially Dublin, which is right on the coast. Our last snow was in February 2009, and I can't remember before that. It may have been 2001.

I've been driving everyone I know crazy for the last few days. I can't stop telling people that when we're old, this cold snap is one of the things we'll remember. I even joined a Facebook group called 'When I'm Old, I'll Talk About The Great Winter of 2009/2010' or something to that effect. Self-parody is the best kind :)

For other reasons this week, I was already thinking about memories. And when I imagine the kind of life I want to look back on, I tend to think of big things. I want to see Japan. I want to see the Pacific Ocean. I want to climb a mountain.

And sometimes, to make myself feel better about all the things I haven't done yet, I list the things that I have done. I've had a giggling fit on a high speed train from Brussels to Cologne. I've seen Westminster Abbey, and the first time I saw that was one of those Big Moments, even though it doesn't sound that impressive. I've walked along the Thames at night as the lights came on. I was in Prague twenty years to the day after Communism fell. I was in New York three months after 9/11 (the only time I've ever been to America, as it happens), and I had tea in the Algonquin Hotel under a painting of the Round Table Group. I have sprinted around the British Museum (and I mean sprinted) five minutes before they closed, trying to photograph the Mildenhall Treasure, the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Sculptures. I'll remember all those things when I'm old, too.

But they are big things, in a way. They all involved purchasing plane tickets for a start, so they're experiences that are restricted to people who can afford plane tickets.

The snow this week has reminded me that there are other memorable things. Life isn't just about those things that sound impressive in a blog post. It's about going walking in the first snow you've seen in years. It's about the night you went to your first writers' group meeting when there was a total weather warning in effect. Or going hillwalking the Saturday before you started a new job, or the last coffee you had in your local cafe before it closed down, or the first film you saw in your favourite cinema. Knowing what the Grand Canal looks like frozen over, and how in summer, when the light is soft enough, it seems to roll like a bayou and I like to sit by it and read books set in the Deep South. These are the little moments. No plane tickets. No world events.

We should all take time to appreciate the things that make up our lives, every day. But I know I don't. It takes two weeks of snow to make me stop and look around, and start storing up memories.

That wouldn't be a bad writing exercise, actually. Take a few minutes and list the big moments in your life, the marriages and births and deaths and first kisses and amazing holidays. Then list the small ones. I'll remember that, next time I'm stuck.


  1. 'when I'm old'... that's so funny! I tell my kids ALL THE TIME.. you'll remember this about me when you're old. Eat your peas.


  2. I hate snow, but I must say you've made me stop and think. I suppose what I don't like about snow is that it's so damn cold, and it's difficult to get out and about in. It does look good though, and reading your post has made me reflect in a more positive way than what I've been doing lately.

    I'm here via Nicola's blog-party. What a lovely idea a blog-party is, and it's great to meet people this way. I've been too engrossed in blogs (or am I just bone idle) to get dressed so far today and I'm wearing a nightie which the same words as your blog title across the back:'Let it Snow'.

  3. Hi Ellen,

    I found your blog via Nicola Morgan's big blog party. I'm from Dublin too, though I've been living in England since 2004, in Manchester at the moment. Sounds like you're ploughing away with your novel - best of luck!


  4. I've come over from Nicola's blog-birthday hoopla. I live in the USA (Washington DC) and have met so many wonderful writers.

    Enjoyed reading your post!

  5. Hi! Another visitor from Nicola's blog! I added myself as a follower to your blog and look forward to reading many more of your posts! I'm from the US (mountain west), Nice to meet you!

  6. Hello - Nicola sent me too! Good luck with the writing in 2010

  7. Hi Valerie, thanks for dropping by! I see you're doing the creative writing MA in Manchester, it sounds like a great course - I'll be dropping back to your blog to read more about it :)

  8. Marisa, I want your new puppy! I love basset hounds. Although I sometimes call them Columbo dogs :D I like your writing too, especially the piece about Lily and Marguerite and the family recipe . . . :)

    Karen, thanks for the follow - you seem like a big London fan from your blog, same as me. Just don't get me started - unless you're making a trip over. Then *do* get me started!

    Virtual Victorian, I love your blog! As I said to Karen, I'm a London freak - combine that with the Victorian period and I'm very happy. I've added you to my follow list :)

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Ooops, forgot to reply to Jean!

    One of the reasons I have the luxury of liking snow is that I live in a city, and I live quite close to the city centre, so getting around isn't a huge problem. And I'm one of those people who is always cold, so maybe I don't notice the extra cold as much when it snows!

    I've been reading some of your blog, and I'll definitely be picking up your book. It sounds excellent and so interesting. I just want to let you know that the image of your book on the top left of your blog didn't work for me - that is, the link didn't work. I could see the picture fine. I use a Mac and Firefox so it could just be me (I delight in being awkward!). And I am now going to leave Accent Press's website because I've found too many books on there that I want to read. . .

  11. Hi Ellen. Another party blogger here! I think you may be the first one I have come across who lives in Dublin, a gorgeous city I visited on my first anniversary. As we are partying in honour of Nicola's first anniversary, it must be fate! We are currently burning to a crisp in a Biblical Australian heatwave, so stories of the snow are most welcome.

  12. Hi Donna, you popped up just in time.

    I have that awful thing that people get when they live in a city for a long time - I have no idea what the must-do things are! And I decided today I was going to spend more time this year exploring my own city. So what did you guys do while you were here? Any recommendations?

    Thanks for commenting, I went to have a look at your blog and have added you to my follow list. I especially liked your interview with Lisa - and I'm a Torchwood fan too :)

    You know what else is fate? Guess what book I almost bought yesterday? Yep, The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society :D

  13. What a lovely blog to read just before bedtime! What lovely memories. This really made me think of all those little things that happened in my life and to reassure myself that hey, they may only be tiny things but they're my memories and I smile now that I think about them!

    Take care

  14. Hello, I am prowling in via Nicola's blog birthday party...lots of things I have to do yet too, need to live to 200 to fit them in! Little things make the biggest memories for me.

  15. Your snow day pictures is amazing! We're in the same boat here with snow in Alabama. Some people have never seen iced ponds. Magical times. My BF in Holland always says, LETS MAKE A MEMORY again when we plan a visit.

    Enjoy the magic and the snow!

  16. That is too weird, Ellen. I just loved that book so much.

    I was so ill when I visited Dublin (morning sickness) that my husband and I sat on one of those tourist buses and went round and round and didn't get off!

  17. Hi Cat, thanks for the comment, I left one at your blog. Best of luck with everything you attempt - you deserve it, and more.

    Christine, I love that quote from your friend, I'll be remembering that one :) Snow in Alabama must be amazing. I'll try to find excuses to post more snow pictures!

    Donna, that's just a great excuse to come back sometime. I'll figure out the best things to do here in the meantime and tell you :)

  18. I now feel like I've missed something and the snow is gone.
    I didn't really think much of it when it was here, sure it was cold and everything was white, but in my head that happened last year (sure only for a day or two but it feels like a lot more when it cancels a flight)

    It was pretty though.

  19. I'm a late popper-over from Nicola's Party. Enjoyed the post - and I can relate because where I live in Ayrshire rarely gets snow. My son made his first snow-angel the other day and he's 11.

  20. I'm going to be 26 next month and have never made a snow angel. That said, I was 17 when I found out what a snow angel was :)

    I may have a funny story about trying to make a snow angel. I'm not sure. I went hillwalking once and when we got to a snowy bit, I know someone flung themselves at what looked like lovely soft snow and bounced on something that felt like concrete. I have no idea whether or not it was me. I'll have to ask around.

    Note to self: remember stuff. It may come in handy on the blog.


I love comments!